NEWS

9.14.22

Making Money in the Cannabis Space

It’s not easy selling weed.

The legal marijuana business is booming — revenues are projected to hit $32 billion this year, more than double what sales were just three years ago. They’re projected to double again in the next six years, propelled by the launch of big new recreational weed markets in New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

But that hasn’t prevented most weed companies from continuing to hemorrhage red ink nearly a decade after Colorado and Washington became the first states to establish legal markets for anyone at least 21 years old. An analysis by POLITICO of financial filings from two dozen of the largest publicly traded U.S. operators shows that they collectively lost more than $550 million in the first six months of this year on revenues of nearly $4.5 billion.

“It all stems from federal illegality,” said Anita Famili, who heads the cannabis and CBD industry group at Manatt, a law firm and consultancy. “The cost of doing business for weed companies is just much higher than any other business.”

Arguably the biggest barrier to making money is the sky-high taxes weed companies pay because they’re treated like illegal narcotics traffickers under the federal tax code. The goods also cannot cross state lines, and that lack of interstate commerce means companies must build separate farms, factories and stores in each state where they do business and navigate a rapidly evolving patchwork of state regulations. Finally, raising capital is extremely expensive due to a dearth of financing options, an issue both Republicans and Democrats in Congress recognize but have yet to address.

“If you’re able to generate cash flow with all of these headwinds, when these headwinds start to be removed it’s going to be an incredibly, incredibly good business model,” said Jen Drake, co-chief operating officer of Ayr Wellness, which has retail and cultivation operations in eight states, including Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Read the full article here.

4.15.22

A cannabis festival is planned this month on the Mississippi Coast. Here are the details.

Plans for an event called the Cannabis Festival Mississippi have raised some eyebrows on the Coast.

Natalie Bonner, one of the festival organizers, says people commonly react along the lines of, “You can’t have a marijuana festival in Mississippi — that’s illegal!”

So what are they missing?

While the event’s name may conjure images of Woodstock, there won’t be any consumption of illegal substances there — although you’ll still have to be 21+ to attend.

The festival will take place at the District Green, a downtown Biloxi outdoor event space opened last year, on April 23. Tickets are $35.

Bonner, owner of a boutique CBD shop in Biloxi, which the Sun Herald profiled last year, described the festival as an educational opportunity for the merely “canna-curious” and regular aficionados alike, timed just a few months before Mississippi’s legalization of medical marijuana goes into effect.

There will be panels discussing subjects as disparate as science, business, politics, medicine, social equity and cooking — but all as they relate to cannabis. Among the speakers will be state legislators and advocates for marijuana legalization.

In an info session titled “Cooking with Cannabis,” a chef will provide attendees with samples of “hemp-infused culinary dishes,” said Lauren Lee, another festival organizer.

The event could be particularly useful for business owners and small farmers interested in learning about the “entirely new job market that’s being formed here in our state” by the legalization bill, Bonner said.

Bonner first had the idea for the festival two years ago, she says, but she and the other organizers’ plans were stymied by the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s event inaugurates what organizers hope will be a yearly tradition. Plans for 2023 are already in the works, Bonner said.

Twenty percent of all profits generated by the event will go to a fund for the legal defense of people with marijuana-related charges, Bonner told the Sun Herald.

There will also be attorneys on site who can assist people seeking to get such charges expunged from their records.

The proceedings will begin at 1 p.m. and take place in three large tents thematically named Indica, Sativa and Hybrid.

After the panels, a lineup of local bands will play until midnight.

Legal cannabis products like CBD, Delta-8 THC and hemp will be sold at the event.

Read the full article here.

4.2.22

2022 Louisiana Legislature

As medical marijuana has rocketed from a niche product to a multi-million dollar market in Louisiana, a growing number of lawmakers and advocates are questioning the strict limits put on licenses for growing and selling the drug.

The most robust effort to change the insular structure will soon play out at the Legislature. Several prominent lawmakers have filed bills, some competing with one another, to overhaul the system. All of them cite similar goals: Expand access for patients and drive down prices, which have drawn complaints from patients and advocates.

Which route the Legislature takes will determine whether the 11 current licensees – two growers and nine pharmacies – will hold onto their increasingly valuable exclusive rights, or whether other businesses will be allowed into the club. There are also multiple proposals to dramatically change how medical marijuana is regulated, giving the Louisiana Department of Health instead of the state’s agriculture agency oversight power.

Read the full article here.

6.22.21

Residency Requirements

Federal courts in Michigan and Missouri have just issued rulings in lawsuits challenging those states’ residency requirements for cannabis licenses. Both courts found that the plaintiffs were likely to prevail on the merits of their challenges. In particular, both courts held that using residency to award cannabis licenses probably violated the Dormant Commerce Clause (DCC). The courts thus issued preliminary injunctions blocking enforcement of the residency requirements.

Here are the full decisions in the two cases:

Lowe v. City of Detroit Preliminary Injunction Order (E.D. Mich. June 17, 2021)

The Lowe Court discusses the DCC on pages 12-13 and 16-18 of its opinion. In a nutshell, the court endorsed the reasoning in NPG v. City of Portland, which invalidated a nearly identical residency preference adopted by the city of Portland, Maine to award cannabis licenses.  I blogged about that decision in this earlier post: UPDATE: Federal Judge Finds That State Residency Requirements for Marijuana Licensing are Unconstitutional. The Lowe Court also found that Detroit’s residency requirement probably violated the Equal Protection Clause and Right to Travel guaranteed by the state (Michigan) Constitution.

Toigo v. Dep’t of Health & Senior Svcs., Preliminary Injunction Order (W.D. Mo. June 21, 2021)

Most of the opinion by the Toigo Court is spent rejecting Missouri’s insistence that its residency requirement was necessary to conduct a thorough background check on prospective licensees. This is clearly a losing argument. As the Toigo Court (and NPG Court before it) explains, the Supreme Court itself has already rejected the idea that states are unable to conduct satisfactory background checks on non-residents.

Read the full article here.

3.10.22

2022 Louisiana Legislative Session

Bills filed in Louisiana legislature seek to expand state’s medical marijuana program.

“I think there’s a direct correlation between inaccessibility and participation in the illicit market. I think the current system clearly enables the illicit market,” said Jeff Schmidtke, Executive Director of BioSciences Louisiana.

Right now, Louisiana has one of the highest costs for medical marijuana in the country. Advocates said the high costs are tied to the fact that the state has just two growers.

“It definitely causes some issues with supply. It also causes some issue with contingency,” said Jeff Schmidtke, Executive Director of BioSciences Louisiana. “What is the backup? What is the population supposed to do when an entire harvest fails, either through failing tests, or spoilage, or contamination?”

Schmidtke said BioSciences is ready to hit the ground running as a cultivator of medical marijuana. But under current state law, he said his company can’t get a license.

He’s hoping the passage of a bill increasing the cap on the number of growers allowed to participate in the state’s medical marijuana market could change that.

Read the full article here.

3.9.22

Mississippi Market

DeAundrea Delaney built a hemp empire in Mississippi, but her sights have long been set on opening one of the state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries.

As Delaney, 42, waited for Mississippi’s medical marijuana program to clear legislative hurdles, she set up a foundation selling what she legally could: products with hemp-extract cannabidiol, or CBD. Hemp is marijuana’s cousin — cannabis without the high.

Delaney opened her first Hemp World store in 2019. At the time, she had just left her job at an insurance office. Her husband was working at a Nissan manufacturing plant. The couple struggled to pay bills and build their savings while caring for their blended family of six children.

Selling CBD changed everything for Delaney’s financial situation. Medical marijuana will too. And not just for her business, she said, but for the state.

“We’re on the cusp of a green economy here,” Delaney said from inside a new Hemp World shop she helped open in Olive Branch last week.

To her, that “green” economy refers to all the new jobs and revenue that will soon come into Mississippi to support the medical marijuana industry. With Mississippi’s medical marijuana program just months from becoming reality, Delaney and other entrepreneurs are investing hundreds of thousands — even millions, in some cases —  to create the needed infrastructure to support it.

Read the full article here.

3.8.22

Mississippi Update

On February 2, 2022 Governor Tate Reeves signed Mississippi’s medicinal cannabis bill and made it law. Under the new law, “certain patients who have debilitating medical conditions,” will be allowed to possess up to “three and one-half (3.5) grams of medical cannabis flower, One (1) gram of medical cannabis concentrate, or one hundred (100) milligrams of THC in an unfused product.” Mississippi officials are expected to start “accepting online license applications for patients, medical practitioners, cannabis cultivation facilities, and others by June 2022.” That leaves most prospective cannabis businesses with a short window to start planning for their applications.

Highlights from the law include multiple tier including micro-licensing for cultivation and processing facilities which allows for different market entry price points based on size. Another important aspect of the law is that vertical integration allows for one entity to grow, process and sell cannabis and cannabis products in up to five dispensaries.

Read the full article here.

3.3.22

Toke-lahoma becomes a target for lawmakers

Staunchly conservative Oklahoma has emerged as an unlikely weed utopia with more than 12,000 cannabis businesses and the nation’s highest per capita rate of medical marijuana patients.

While other states have embraced tight restrictions on weed businesses, Oklahoma has become the nation’s test case for unfettered cannabis capitalism, placing few limits on licenses.

That could soon change. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and state lawmakers in Oklahoma City are trying to rein in the freewheeling market that has proliferated since voter-approved legalization in 2018, introducing dozens of bills that would impose tighter restrictions.

“When Oklahomans voted for medical marijuana, they were sold a bill of goods,” Stitt said, setting the tone during his State of the State speech last month. “The state question was misleading, and it has tied our hands as we regulate the industry.”

Oklahoma’s experience serves as a cautionary tale for other red states, which have seen unprecedented momentum to legalize pot in recent years. When Mississippi lawmakers passed a medical marijuana bill last month, they repeatedly emphasized that they didn’t want to follow the wild west path blazed by Oklahoma.

“We are not Oklahoma, and this program is not going to be Oklahoma 2.0,” Mississippi GOP state Sen. Kevin Blackwell, who sponsored the medical marijuana bill, said during the floor debate.

Republicans have sounded alarms, but cannabis proponents say states with strict rules aren’t exactly models of success. Early adopter states have experienced massive legal fights and allegations of corruption from entrepreneurs seeking a limited number of potentially highly lucrative licenses.

Oklahoma libertarian legalization advocate Chip Paul argues that the problem isn’t the state’s unlimited licensing structure, but rather the failure of state regulators to establish sound guardrails and adequate enforcement.

“You can pretty much do whatever you want with no fear that you’re going to get inspected,” Paul said. “Our state is whistling Dixie and letting it all happen.”

The legislative agitation comes as cannabis advocates are pushing to put a recreational legalization referendum on the ballot this year, but two competing petitions have splintered the pro-marijuana forces.

Read the full article here.

3.2.22

Expanded Louisiana medical pot program drawing tens of millions of dollars in investment

When sales in Louisiana’s restrictive medical marijuana program began in 2019, advocates and prospective marijuana business owners worried it would be tough sledding to survive financially, given the reams of regulations attached to the program.

But the recent relaxation of many of those rules – including, crucially, the addition of more popular flower products – has rapidly drawn major investment in Louisiana’s pot industry. Now, for the few companies who have control over growing and selling the drug through exclusive state licenses, big profits seem possible.

Public records show the state’s two growers – private companies hired by LSU and Southern University, respectively – spent the most money yet on their production in 2021, with LSU’s partner shelling out tens of millions of dollars to boost its growing capabilities.

Tax data indicates sales are starting to pick up as well. The two growers pay a 7% fee on whatever they sell, and in the fiscal year that ended in July, they remitted more than $270,000, suggesting gross sales of nearly $4 million. In the first two quarters of the current fiscal year, the growers already exceeded that number. And that was before flower sales even began, meaning they will likely see huge year-over-year growth.

The private companies who grow the plant legally in Louisiana don’t comment on their finances, but it appears they’re not yet raking in profits, based on publicly available spending and revenue data. But that will likely soon change as the market hits a ramp-up phase that is expected to last two years before plateauing. By 2024, LSU’s growing partner, an Arkansas-based firm called Good Day Farm, expects Louisiana’s medical marijuana market to top 110,000 patients. That’s more than seven times the current number.

Read the full article here.

1.19.22

Not only did 74% of Mississippi’s voters approve MMJ in 11/20, but 63% still want this legislature to ratify I-65 with a “ditto” bill

A majority of Mississippi voters—over 63%—want the legislature to enact a medical marijuana law that mirrors the one passed by voters last November but was nullified by the State Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding flaws with the state’s ballot initiative process, according to the latest State of the State Survey conducted by Millsaps College and Chism Strategies. Related to this, more than 20% of the electorate says legalizing medical marijuana is the most important issue that will determine how they vote in the next elections for state positions such as governor, lieutenant governor and the state legislature.

Millsaps College and Chism Strategies have conducted the quarterly State of the State Survey for 15 quarters since 2017 in an effort to provide an unbiased, academic view of current political issues in Mississippi through the response of its citizens.

The latest survey also finds that 52% of Mississippians favor going beyond medicinal marijuana by legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, an idea opposed by 37% of voters surveyed. The survey also finds strong support for Medicaid expansion in Mississippi, with 55% in support and just 27% opposed. Voters also give high marks to law enforcement, with over 60% reporting they approve of the job police in their communities are doing. Over three-quarters of respondents want state leaders to help local and municipal governments raise the pay of Mississippi police officers, who make considerably less than the national average.

“Mississippi voters overwhelmingly support legalizing medicinal marijuana, which was actually done by the electorate last November. They also favor legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes and expanding Medicaid by healthy margins,” said Dr. Nathan R. Shrader, chair of the Department of Government and Politics and director of American Studies at Millsaps College. “If you look closely at what the voters are expressing in terms of their policy preferences, you will see they do not appear to be anywhere near the same ideological positions as the majority of the state’s elected officials. The coming months, including the 2022 legislative session, will be a test of how long the state’s elected leaders can hold positions that are greatly at odds with the majority of Mississippi’s voters.”

Read the full article here.

1.18.22

Louisiana’s legislature must end the poorly performing duopoly and expand the therapeutic Cannabis program

For a moment, newly available medical marijuana flower was a hot commodity in Louisiana, drawing thousands of new patients and huge lines to the state’s nine authorized pharmacies. Then it was gone.

Pharmacies across the state reported supply disruptions less than two weeks after flower became available at the start of 2022. And patients have complained of high costs, long waits and caps on the amount they can buy.

Industry leaders say things will get better with time, as more supply becomes available and patient demand stabilizes. Despite shortages this week, a new batch is expected to hit the shelves soon after product cleared state testing Friday.

Still, legislative leaders and advocates are pushing for the state to break up the duopoly of growers and oligopoly of pharmacies and turn the program loose into the free market – or at least a freer one. Some are pointing to the growing pains of the past two weeks as evidence it’s time.

The push to license more pot businesses is the latest in a yearslong effort to bring Louisiana’s medical marijuana program – once a tightly regulated product of negotiations with anti-marijuana law enforcement groups – more in line with those of other states. The addition of flower, the most popular form of the drug, which patients can smoke, was the biggest step yet.

Read the full article here.

1.13.22

Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative to legalize medical cannabis in 2020, but a technicality overturned Initiative 65.

A bill to create a medical marijuana program is headed for debate in the Mississippi Senate in coming days.

Senate Bill 2095 passed the Senate Public Health Committee on Wednesday. It would allow a person with a marijuana prescription to obtain up to 3.5 grams of the substance per day.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said that is too much and he believes it would lead to widespread recreational use of the drug.

In November 2020, Mississippi voters approved an initiative to allow medical marijuana. Six months later, the state Supreme Court ruled the initiative was not properly on the ballot.

Read the full article here.

1.13.22

Can Cannabis protect us from COVID-19?

A chemical found in live cannabis plants could help protect human cells against coronavirus infections, research suggests.

A study by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU) and Oregon Health and Science University found that two acids present in hemp, a type of cannabis plant used widely in cloth, paper and as a drug, were able to jam the gears of the virus that causes Covid-19.

The researchers said the two compounds can bind onto the SARS-Cov-2 virus’ spike protein, which it uses to invade and commandeer human cells and which gives the coronavirus family its name.

However, the compounds probably cannot be consumed via any of the traditional methods of taking cannabis as a drug, meaning they would have to be harvested separately to make a specific medicine.

“These cannabinoid acids are abundant in hemp and in many hemp extracts,” said lead author Richard van Breemen of OSU’s Global Hemp Innovation Center.

“They are not controlled substances like THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and have a good safety profile in humans. And our research showed the hemp compounds were equally effective against variants of SARS-Cov-2.”

Read the full article here.

1.12.22

Arkansas Dispensaries Sell More Than 40,000 Pounds In 2021

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration reported that the state’s 37 medical marijuana dispensaries sold more than 40,000 pounds of the plant in 2021.

The state surpassed $500 million spent on medical marijuana.

To Read The Rest Of This Article On Fox, Click Here

1.12.22

Pharmacies overwhelmed following new medical marijuana law taking effect

The new law making smokable medical marijuana legal in Louisiana is getting lots of attention. Last week we talked to law enforcement about their concerns, but now, we’re hearing from suppliers who say there are more customers than products.

“People are excited about it. We’re trying to get through the rush right now,” James Thibodeaux, pharmacist and manager at Medicis Pharmacy, said. “It’s a nice change for the whole program.”

The flower, or “smokable” form of medical marijuana, became legal in the state on Jan. 1, 2022, and the Medicis staff says they were so overwhelmed in the first week that they temporarily put a halt on new orders.

“Everyone expected to get their products on day one – which we got through that rush. Things are getting better,” Thibodeaux said. “We’re learning as we go as well because it’s so new – from the growers to the pharmacies – the whole process is new, so we’re having to do a lot behind the scenes just to get to this point.”

Now, they’re taking orders again.

Medicis accepts orders through its website with doctor recommendations or through state telemedicine sites like TeleLeaf. Gary Hess, CEO of Teleleaf, says he acts as a “gatekeeper,” then patients go to a pharmacist to get the actual product.

“Then they go and meet with a licensed pharmacist at the nine pharmacies within Louisiana, and then, they will sit and they’ll do their initial intake. And then we’ll find those products that fit best for them,” Hess said.

Patients can also choose to go straight to the pharmacy for a recommendation and prescription.

“If you’re not comfortable with that, that’s what, you know, having a pharmacist and pharmacy techs in the building… We can help go over your medications, explain exactly how to adjust your dosing for your specific needs,” Thibodeaux said.

Thibodeaux said this won’t be a long-lasting delay.

“It’s just a matter of getting through the growing pains of a new program and all of the restrictions and all the testing – which are good for making sure you’re getting a good product that’s tested,” Thibodeaux said. “But once we get through this, I think it will be a lot smoother for patients.”

Read the full article here

1.6.22

Medical marijuana flower hits shelves, as patients flock to buy newly legal product

Patients flocked to Louisiana’s handful of medical marijuana pharmacies on the first day the smokable form of the plant became available, with people reporting hours-long waits and limits on the amount of product they could buy at some places.

The long-awaited rollout of marijuana flower arrived Jan. 1 when a new law allowing the sale of the most popular form of the drug went into effect. Previously, only non-smokable forms like tinctures and vapes were allowed. Monday was the first day of sales for the pharmacies.

Patients waited in long lines to get their first batch of the legal flower product, which was available in three strains at prices that varied widely – from roughly $35 to $80 for an eighth of an ounce – depending on the pharmacy.

About 150 pounds of smokable marijuana, produced by the state’s two licensed growers, hit the shelves of the nine marijuana pharmacies across the state in recent days. That amount, which works out to nearly 20,000 eighth-ounce servings, represents the first batch approved by regulators. Growers say bigger shipments are on the way in the coming days and weeks.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry approved 193 pounds for sale starting Jan. 1, according to a spokesperson. John Davis, president of Good Day Farm, one of the state’s two growers, said the company held some back to see what demand looked like in the first week. He said the company has 300 more pounds waiting to be tested, including two additional strains.

Read the full article here

1.6.22

First smokable medical marijuana sold in Shreveport

For the first time, medical marijuana patients can light up in Louisiana.

People lined up before Shreveport’s licensed dispensary, Hope Pharmacy, opened Monday morning. And people kept flowing in, keeping staff busy.

“I’m grateful. I honestly never thought I would see it in my lifetime,” said the first customer, who wished not to be identified. “We all know that Louisiana is very strict on drugs and narcotics. And I’m just glad to see that they’ve become more open minded.”

The pharmacy’s owner, Doug Boudreaux, says he and his wife — a partner in the business — got 150 prescriptions ready ahead of time on Sunday to get a jump on the rush.

Boudreaux says smokable marijuana delivers relief for patients in mere minutes — much faster than other forms that were already available, such as gummies and tinctures. He says the smokable flower form of medical marijuana costs less than other forms, and can also be used for baking edibles.

“The difference is that the tincture lasts six hours and the smokable form might be two to three hours. So they can take a tincture or gummy to last six hours, and if they have a breakthrough pain or breakthrough anxiety they can do a vape or smoke,” Boudreaux explained.

Read the full article here

1.6.22

Smokeable medical marijuana flowers now available in Lafayette

2022 means new opportunities for medical marijuana in Louisiana. A new law went into effect January 1 adding raw smokeable marijuana to the list of products already available for sale in Louisiana ​with a doctor’s prescription.

The state’s dispensaries have been selling medical marijuana in liquids, topical applications, inhalers, and edible gummies for years now, but raw marijuana flowers were specifically outlawed until now.

“This is definitely a dosage form that is very, very popular in most medical states. You can bet somewhere between 40%-60% will be raw flower sales,” explained Peter Prevot, executive director of the Louisiana Association for Therapeutic Alternatives.

Prevot represents all 9 medical marijuana dispensaries statewide, one in each of the state’s regions. He said because raw marijuana involves less processing, it will affect prices. He showed examples in Lafayette where flowered marijuana’s THC per milligram was half or a third as expensive as other alternatives.

“I think another important factor to consider is with these flower products coming out now you can walk in and buy as little as one gram which is priced around $15 to $20. We didn’t have a product in that price range before. Your cheapest products were coming in around $75 before that,” Prevot added.

The influx of new patients also means expanded production with partnered state growers. Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said the two facilities LSU and Southern University are currently producing 350 pounds of dried marijuana flowers every week.

Read the full article here

1.6.22

Patients line up for Louisiana’s first smokable medical marijuana; balk at prices

Medical marijuana patients packed Louisiana’s nine cannabis pharmacies on Monday, the first day of the expansion of the state’s program to include the raw, smokable form of the medicine as an option, though many complained about the cost of the raw buds.

Until Monday Louisiana’s only two legal growers — LSU AgCenter, Southern AgCenter and their private partners — could only produce the medicine in processed form like tinctures and edible gummies.

“It’s an exciting day; it feels like the first day again from August 2019 when the first products became available,” said John Davis of Good Day Farms, LSU AgCenter’s private partner and grower.

There were some long lines and waits at the nine pharmacies across the state, according to media reports.

Greg Hilburn, Lafayette Daily Advertiser
Tue, January 4, 2022, 7:09 AM·3 min read
Photos of seedlings from the first crop of medical marijuana being grown in Louisiana.
Photos of seedlings from the first crop of medical marijuana being grown in Louisiana.
Medical marijuana patients packed Louisiana’s nine cannabis pharmacies on Monday, the first day of the expansion of the state’s program to include the raw, smokable form of the medicine as an option, though many complained about the cost of the raw buds.

Until Monday Louisiana’s only two legal growers — LSU AgCenter, Southern AgCenter and their private partners — could only produce the medicine in processed form like tinctures and edible gummies.

“It’s an exciting day; it feels like the first day again from August 2019 when the first products became available,” said John Davis of Good Day Farms, LSU AgCenter’s private partner and grower.

There were some long lines and waits at the nine pharmacies across the state, according to media reports.

More: Louisiana lawmakers chide ag commissioner for slow pace of medical marijuana expansion

Business was brisk at Delta MedMar, northeastern Louisiana’s cannabis pharmacy in West Monroe, though patients there were disappointed by the cost of the flower product.

“They said it would be cheaper, but it’s not,” said Corbet King, who drove an hour from Wisner and said the medicine treats both his pain from back and neck injuries suffered in a car wreck and his bipolar disorder.

“I’ve been waiting on the flower option,” King said. “But this more than double the street price (of illegal weed).”

Read the full article here

12.29.21

Governor Reeves speaks out on Medical Marijuana bill, says the question is Medical vs. Recreational

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves took to social media on Tuesday to once again outline his position on a proposed medical marijuana bill in the state. Given the wording, it would not be unreasonable to suggest that should lawmakers not acquiesce to the Governor’s position, the bill as proposed could face a veto.

Reeves says the issue comes down to whether Mississippians want a true medical marijuana program or a program that leads to recreational use, something he does not support.

“Medicinal or Recreational marijuana? That is the question,” Reeves wrote. “I’ve repeatedly told the members of the Legislature that I am willing to sign a bill that is truly medical marijuana. One that has reasonable restrictions to ensure that it doesn’t have an adverse effect on Mississippi’s economy. One that has reasonable restrictions to ensure that it doesn’t disrupt Mississippi families. A program that helps those Mississippians who truly need it for an illness.”

Following the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that deemed the initiative process flawed and struck down Initiative 65 from being implemented, Governor Reeves said he would be willing to call the Legislature in for a special session to address the issue if he and lawmakers could agree on the parameters of the bill.

Read the full article here

11.22.21

Mississippi lawmakers unlikely to reach medical marijuana deal this year

Mississippi state lawmakers say a special session of the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana this year is increasingly unlikely, given that the regular legislative session convenes in January.

According to Meridian TV station WTOK, Republicans in the state have failed to reach a deal with Gov. Tate Reeves, who for months has stalled the legalization process by demanding ever-stricter parameters for a medical marijuana program, including potency caps on products and purchase limits for patients.

“About two months ago there was a draft of the proposed medical marijuana bill; it was 144 pages,” state Sen. Jeff Tate told WTOK.

“It was a compromise between the leaders of the House and the Senate that then went to the governor for the governor to take a look and see if he had anything he wanted to add or take away from it. That changed the bill to 277 pages.”

State Rep. Charles Young Jr. told the TV station he doesn’t believe there will be a special session before the regular session starts in January.

Read the full article here

11.22.21

Louisiana Lawmakers Press Regulators On High Medical Marijuana Costs For Patients

A regulatory bottleneck in Louisiana’s medical marijuana supply chain has inflated costs far beyond the prices found in other states, according to industry experts who testified at the Louisiana Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Commission meeting Thursday.

Armed with letters from constituents and business owners who have hit roadblocks trying to either buy or sell the pharmaceutical-grade products, lawmakers on the commission grilled officials with the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry over the program’s slow rollout.

“When I look at the back-and-forth, it looks like micromanagement,” said Rep. Debbie Villio (R-Kenner), referring to comments exchanged between a licensee and state regulators who were quibbling over minute details in an application for a new piece of machinery.

The Department of Agriculture and Forestry is the primary regulator for medical marijuana in Louisiana and is responsible for testing any cannabis products before they are sold to dispensaries and any equipment used to cultivate, process or prepare those products.

Villio, a former prosecutor, pointed out that the regulators were telling the licensee to change numerous small details in a machine’s standard operating procedure (SOP) manual such as to use the word “mixer” instead of “pan” and to clarify if a word written on a beaker is actually written on a sticker that is then placed on the beaker.

Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain and program director Tabitha Irvin defended the agency’s strict protocol. Irvin said they follow a set of machinery guidelines written by the Louisiana Department of Health.

Read the full article here

9.14.21

Lawmakers discuss a medical marijuana bill after one fails to pass during the 2021 legislative session.

Earlier this year, a bill similar to Initiative 65 was reviewed.

Now, legislators are working behind the scenes to reach an agreement
If passed, the state of Mississippi will have a new avenue to economic development.

Like any other product – or commodity, this means revenue for the state and jobs for the people.

Mississippi legislators have been here before—reviewing a rejected bill.

While lawmakers wait for a special session on medical marijuana, business owners already have their plans in progress.

One concern is how medical marijuana will be taxed.

“Agriculture taxes are a lot lower than manufacturing taxes, so we’re waiting on that to come out to be able to structure these deals. We look at their capital investment. It generates taxes so that we what a company is taxed on,” said GTR Link Project Manager Betsy Young.

Young says developers are visiting counties in North Mississippi.

“We’ve been working some deals where they’re still working, their still moving deals. They’re looking at properties available in the area. Most of these are looking for larger, older buildings,” said Young.

And with a new business, job creation will likely bring hundreds of employment opportunities.

” The jobs are fairly high-paid. These are jobs that can pay $55,000 a year,” said Young.

Read the full article here

7.28.21

Amazon entering the space?

When it announced its support for lawmakers’ efforts to decriminalize weed last month, Amazon didn’t just become the biggest company in America to back marijuana legalization, it captivated the cannabis industry in the process.

 

Now, as bills pushing legalization remain stuck in Congress, activists fighting for liberalized cannabis laws are hoping the e-commerce giant will take the next step and use its considerable D.C. muscle to help get them passed.

 

Lobbyists for legalization are pinning their hopes on Amazon using its experienced lobbying team and deep pockets to support their efforts, believing it could help them launch ad campaigns and persuade lawmakers opposed to legalization — especially those who represent states where cannabis is legal — to change their minds. Cannabis lobbyists and advocates who have spoken with Amazon made it clear that the company is already engaging in cannabis discussions in Washington, D.C. Whether Amazon actively lobbies or invests monetarily in legislation is the question on everyone’s minds.

 

“I’m quite disappointed that we’ve really seen no movement whatsoever at the federal level,” said Matthew Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “I think that if Amazon were able to lend its political support to federal reform and fund state level efforts, that would be a net positive for the cannabis reform movement in this country.”

Read the full article here

7.13.21

Fox News Summer 2015

7.1.21

Interviews w/ R. David Brown:

The Russ Belville Show
Date: 05.07.2015          Start:     28:10             End:     41:45

21st Century Radio hosted by Dr. Zohara Hieronimus:
Date: 06.14.2015

 

Interview with Jim Engster
Date: 06.29.2021

6.23.21

Smokable marijuana allowed in Louisiana’s medical pot program after Gov. John Bel Edwards signs bill

Louisiana’s nine medical marijuana pharmacies will soon be able to sell the smokable flower form of the drug, after Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law a bill that expands the legal forms of marijuana for medical use.

 

Edwards, a Democrat, signed House Bill 391 from the recently-ended legislative session, his office said Tuesday.

 

The measure, by Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, lets patients buy up to two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana flower every two weeks from the state’s licensed pharmacies. Previously, the state’s tight rules for the program meant patients could only access certain non-smokable forms of the drug, like tinctures, gummies and inhalers.

 

Advocates said Glover’s bill to decriminalize the possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana would keep people from going to jail for a drug that is legal in 17 other states. Twenty-seven states have passed similar decriminalization laws — which are a step short of legalization — by taking away jail time as a penalty for small amounts of pot. The fines and amounts of marijuana those laws apply to vary by state.

Read the full article here.

6.15.21

John Bel Edwards signs bill decriminalizing marijuana, says it’s not decriminalization

Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed into law a bill that takes away the possibility of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana, the latest shift away from Louisiana’s historically punitive stance on the drug.

Edwards, a Democrat who is often aligned with the state’s sheriffs and has long opposed legalizing marijuana, signed House Bill 652 by Rep. Cedric Glover, D-Shreveport, hailing it as a criminal justice reform effort.

Glover’s bill gained steam in the two-month legislative session that ended last week after a Republican-sponsored bill to legalize marijuana failed in the state House. The push indicated a growing willingness by the conservative Legislature to look at loosening the state’s tight laws surrounding marijuana. A task force is expected to study legalization of marijuana ahead of next year’s session.

Advocates said Glover’s bill to decriminalize the possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana would keep people from going to jail for a drug that is legal in 17 other states. Twenty-seven states have passed similar decriminalization laws — which are a step short of legalization — by taking away jail time as a penalty for small amounts of pot. The fines and amounts of marijuana those laws apply to vary by state.

Read the full article here.

6.15.21

Edwards signs law easing marijuana penalties, possession means a $100 fine instead of 15 days in jail

A bill reducing penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Louisiana was signed into law Tuesday, removing the possibility of jail time for minor possession charges.

House Bill 652, put forward by Rep. Cedric Glover (D-Shreveport), limits fines to $100 and a misdemeanor summons for possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana, regardless of how many times the person has been cited.

Gov. John Bel Edwards pushed back in a statement on the bill’s signing against the idea that he was decriminalizing marijuana, which he has said he does not support legalizing.

Instead, he focused on the bill’s effect on the criminal justice system. Under previous Louisiana law, marijuana-related arrests could lead to a $300 fine and 15 days in jail for first-time offenders.

Advocates say this bill will ease that burden on the criminal justice system.

“This is not a decision I took lightly,” Edwards said. “In addition to carefully reviewing the bill, I also believe deeply that the state of Louisiana should no longer incarcerate people for minor legal infractions, especially those that are legal in many states, that can ruin lives and destroy families, as well as cost taxpayers greatly.”

After years where similar ideas stalled, this session’s debate shows just how much opposition to marijuana has eased — particularly among younger, newer legislators. This year’s proposal passed with bipartisan support.

It comes only six years after lawmakers created a framework for dispensing medical marijuana, a program the majority-Republican Legislature has expanded nearly every year since then. This session, lawmakers agreed to broaden the therapeutic cannabis program to allow patients to use raw, smokable marijuana, an idea considered unthinkable when the medical program was created.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

America’s most conservative states are embracing medical pot

Many of the nation’s medical marijuana holdouts are giving in as pot activists make inroads this year with conservative strongholds — and are poised to notch more wins in the coming weeks.

Medical marijuana bills are advancing in the Republican-controlled legislatures of North Carolina, Alabama and Kansas for the first time. Efforts to expand limited medical programs in bedrock conservative states like Texas and Louisiana also appear close to passage.

“Medical cannabis is where we see the most common ground between Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” said Heather Fazio, a pro-marijuana advocate in Texas, where lawmakers are considering a major expansion of the state’s strict medical pot program.

Cannabis is already available to more than 230 million Americans for medical use and, according to an April survey by Pew Research, 91 percent of residents believe marijuana should be legal for that purpose. Even in states without a medical program like North Carolina and South Carolina, recent polls have shown support topping 70 percent.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

Lawmakers at odds over medical marijuana access, depth of treatment: ‘Don’t get bogged down in your fears’

Baton Rouge Rep. Ted James said the state needs to go further and faster in making medical marijuana available to sick Louisianans who are in need of the treatment.

On Wednesday, James pitched his bill to the House Health and Welfare Committee, which would have expanded the ways it can be consumed, the diagnoses that are eligible for treatment and the number of growers.

But after more than an hour of emotional testimony from members of the public, coupled with pointed questions from skeptical lawmakers, James decided to set aside his House Bill 1112. Across the State Capitol on the Senate side, Sen. Fred Mills, R-New Iberia, has a similar bill that’s advancing.

Mills’ bill, Senate Bill 271, is more tightly constructed than James’ version, allowing for less conditions to be eligible for medical marijuana. But it’s already cleared the Senate and is on its way to the House.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

For Louisiana patients with few options, marijuana gives hope — even if science is still catching up

When Anthony Guarisco proposed Louisiana’s first medical marijuana bill in 1978, the former state senator never intended to use it himself. He pushed for it after the mother of a child with seizures told him it was the only thing that brought the child relief.

“I didn’t have no idea in my wildest revelry that I would get glaucoma in 2013,” said Guarisco, now 80.

Medical marijuana is now approved to treat glaucoma and a number of other conditions in Louisiana. Guarisco said his doctor hopes it will keep the pressure in his eyes stable and reduce inflammation to potentially slow down or halt the disease, which can progress to blindness.

On Tuesday, Guarisco joined other patients at Willow Pharmacy in Madisonville who were able to get their hands on medical marijuana, which is only available in tinctures taken by mouth, for the first time since the drug was approved in the state.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

Growing Marijuana in Louisiana – State Laws (2021)

The Pelican State has taken a significant step in terms of medical marijuana reform this year. Last June 15, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law House Bill 819 which allowed physicians to recommend medical marijuana for any condition that they consider to be debilitating to their patient. The bill, which took effect last August 2020, is expected to reinvigorate Louisiana’s languid medical cannabis industry. According to David Brown, former president of Sensible Marijuana Policy for Louisiana, the black market may be responsible for the low patient participation in the MMJ program. Those in Louisiana’s MMJ business believe that legal medical weed is just too expensive at present. Furthermore, patients in some areas would have to travel long distances just to get to a dispensary. But it seems that the bigger obstacle is the limited number of debilitating conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. In most cases, it’s an easy choice for those who can’t buy legally to go to the black market where it is cheaper and more accessible.

However, HB 819 is likely to increase doctor’s recommendations, which in turn, may bring in more patients into the program. According to Wellcana CEO John Davis, the bill will essentially allow every doctor to participate in the program, as well as every patient to have access to talking with their doctor about whether MMJ is appropriate for them.

Despite being a state in the southeast, it looks like marijuana reform is plodding in the right direction in Louisiana. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 1991 and criminal penalties for possession were even reduced in 2015. However, punishments for illegal cultivation remain tough.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

Bill proposes tax on marijuana to help fix Louisiana’s roads

Members of the House Ways and Means Committee heard a bill that’s looking to tax marijuana but not recreational marijuana. Instead, this is aimed at taxing medical marijuana. The bill debated this morning is actually a companion of another bill by the same lawmaker that’s looking to expand medical marijuana in all its forms. As opposed to keeping it where it’s at with just the oil-based forms.

“I think if my other bill doesn’t pass, we’re effectively killing the medical marijuana program in Louisiana,” said author of the bill Representative Tanner Magee (R) of Houma, LA.

The bill addresses that the tincture, or oil-based form of marijuana is not taxed because it’s classified as a prescription drug not to mention its expensive to process.

“What this bill does is it just taxes the flower. It’s cheaper, its more affordable, it’s better for the people who want to do it, it’s what the consumers want,” said Magee.

Magee says he understands that we would not want to tax ourselves out of the market either.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

Follow marijuana in the Louisiana legislature and how the first of many bills fared

The first of several bills aimed at changing Louisiana’s marijuana laws received a warm reception from lawmakers Thursday, with a bill to tax the raw smokable form of medical marijuana easily passing through a state House committee.

House Bill 514, by Speaker Pro Tem Tanner Magee, would apply state sales taxes to the marijuana “flower” in the state’s medical marijuana program. The legislation is tied to another proposal by Magee – a Houma Republican who is second-in-command in the state House – to legalize the sale of the smokable form of marijuana by the medical producers and pharmacies.

Several members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax matters, shared personal stories of medical marijuana helping people who were dying of cancer or suffering other ailments.

“I’ve had dear friends of mine that I grew up with and I have a lot of respect for and they ended up getting cancer,” said Rep. Phillip DeVillier, a conservative Republican from Eunice. “The only thing that gave them comfort was this. The only thing.”

The panel unanimously approved the legislation to apply the state’s 4.45% sales tax to the product. Currently, medical marijuana products aren’t subject to sales taxes, and Magee’s proposal would only tax the raw smokable form of the plant, not the tinctures and gummies already on the market.

Read the full article here.

5.25.21

Louisiana Lawmakers Weigh Medical Marijuana Expansion, Tax

A House Republican leader’s bid to expand Louisiana’s medical marijuana program and allow smokable cannabis started to gain traction Thursday, as lawmakers advanced a bill that would tax the new therapeutic products.

Louisiana’s dispensaries sell medical marijuana in liquids, topical applications, inhalers and edible gummies.

Houma Rep. Tanner Magee, the House’s second-ranking Republican, is proposing to authorize sales of raw, smokable marijuana for medical use — and to apply state sales tax to those products if lawmakers allow them.

The House Ways and Means Committee agreed without objection Thursday to the bill applying the state’s 4.45% sales tax rate and dedicating the money generated to transportation projects. Lawmakers advanced the proposal to the full House for debate, even as some expressed concern about levying a tax on medicine, which is not done on any prescription drugs in Louisiana.

A nonpartisan financial analysis of the tax bill estimated Louisiana could eventually receive up to $12 million a year from the sales taxes.

The tax bill — raising potentially millions for a backlog of road and bridge work — is seen as a way to potentially ease passage of Magee’s separate proposal to expand the program to allow sales of the smokable marijuana “flower,” starting in 2022. That bill has not yet received a hearing.

Read the full article here.

5.18.21

Marijuana legalization effort is done for now. Here’s how it was different, and its future

The effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Louisiana, which got further than ever before this year after an unexpected bipartisan push, is over for now.

State Rep. Richard Nelson’s bill to tax the sale of marijuana died on a 47-48 vote Tuesday, well short of the 70 votes needed. After that bill failed, he tabled a vote on the bill to legalize the drug for recreational use.

The influential Louisiana Sheriffs Association helped kill the proposal, but the debate also revealed shifting attitudes about legalization among Republicans and opponents of the idea. The sheriffs’ group committed to study the idea ahead of next year’s legislative session, and several opponents conceded legalization is likely inevitable as the idea was debated by lawmakers.

Read the full article here.

5.17.21

Mississippi justices toss voter-backed marijuana initiative

Mississippi will remain in the minority of states without a medical marijuana program after the state Supreme Court on Friday overturned an initiative that voters approved last fall — a decision that also limits other citizen-led efforts to put issues on the statewide ballot.

At the heart of the ruling is the fact that initiatives need signatures from five congressional districts to get on the ballot, but because of Mississippi’s stagnant population, the state only has four districts.

Six justices ruled that the medical marijuana initiative is void because the state’s initiative process is outdated. Three justices dissented.

The initiative process was added to the Mississippi Constitution in the 1990s as Section 273. It requires petitioners trying to get any initiative on the ballot to gather one-fifth of signatures from each congressional district. Mississippi had five congressional districts at the time that was written. But the state dropped to four districts after the 2000 Census, and language dealing with the initiative process was never updated.

“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress,” Justice Josiah Coleman wrote for the majority in the ruling Friday. “To work in today’s reality, it will need amending — something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

In a strongly worded dissent, Justice James Maxwell wrote that he believes the secretary of state correctly put Initiative 65 on the ballot. Maxwell wrote that the majority opinion “confidently and correctly points out” that the Supreme Court cannot amend the state constitution.

“Yet the majority does just that — stepping completely outside of Mississippi law — to employ an interpretation that not only amends but judicially kills Mississippi’s citizen initiative process,” Maxwell wrote.

About 1.3 million people voted in Mississippi in November, and more than 766,000 of them voted in favor of Initiative 65, which required the state Health Department to establish a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year. The department had been working to create a program as the legal fight continued.

People also have started investing money in businesses related to medical marijuana in Mississippi. A cannabis cultivation supplier announced in April that it was leasing a warehouse in Jackson with plans to open this summer, WLBT-TV reported.

Mississippi was among about three dozen states to have approved medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To get Initiative 65 on Mississippi’s statewide ballot, organizers gathered signatures from the five congressional districts that the state used during the 1990s. They did that based on legal advice issued years ago by the state attorney general’s office.

Read the full article here.

5.17.21

Mississippi Supreme Court strikes down medical marijuana ballot initiative

In a ruling that will cast a long shadow on state politics, the Mississippi Supreme Court has invalidated a popular medical marijuana proposal as well as the ability of voters to directly amend the state constitution.

In a 6-3 decision released Friday afternoon, the court majority found that the Initiative 65 medical cannabis referendum was improperly placed on the 2020 ballot. The court said that the Constitutional provisions for a voter referendum require that signatures be gathered equally from five congressional districts. The state only has four.

The state constitution contains “a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress,” Justice Josiah Coleman wrote for the majority. “To work in today’s reality, it will need amending — something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

Joining Coleman in the majority were Justices Michael Randolph, Leslie King, Dawn Beam, David Ishee and Kenneth Griffis.

Dissenting from the majority view were Justices Robert Chamberlin, James Kitchens and James Maxwell.

In a dissenting opinion, Chamberlin wrote that the majority ruling “does not avoid absurdity, rather, it invites it.”

Friday’s ruling came after Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler challenged the validity of Initiative 65’s certification for the ballot, filing suit just days before voters approved a medical marijuana program.

Mississippi now has no legal provision for medial marijuana. The program widely approved by voters required that legal medical pot be available no later than August.

In 2020, about 73% of voters supported Initiative 65 over an alternative program proposed by the Legislature. This, even as prominent political leaders rallied against Initiative 65.

As required by Initiative 65, the Mississippi State Department of Health has been writing the regulations and provisions needed to operate the program.

During a question and answer session streamed online Friday, State Health Office Dr. Thomas Dobbs said MSDH will “discontinue any further work on that project.”

He added that “if the Legislature wants to do something in statute, we stand ready to assist with all we’ve learned.”

Without a valid referendum process, current efforts to put early voting, Medicaid expansion and the old state flag on the ballot are now cut short.

Read the full article here.

5.17.21

Mississippi Supreme Court Bans Ballot Initiatives While Nixing Medical Marijuana

Mississippi’s Supreme Court on Friday blocked voters from using ballot initiatives on a technicality while striking down a voter-approved initiative that would have legalized medical marijuana.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that because the state constitution mandates that ballot initiative petitioners must collect signatures from voters in five Mississippi congressional districts, while the state has only had four districts following the 2000 census, no ballot initiatives since 2000 are legally valid.

Since voters in the state can no longer directly weigh in under the ruling, the outdated constitutional provision cannot be changed unless Mississippi lawmakers decide to take on the issue. In addition, any other ballot initiatives that have passed in the 20 years since the districts changed would likely also be invalidated if challenged in court.

“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of [the constitution’s ballot initiative provision] wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress,” Justice Josiah Coleman wrote for the majority.

“To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court,” he added.

The medical marijuana ballot initiative was approved by 74 percent of Mississippi voters last November. At least 228,000 signatures were collected from what had been each of the five congressional districts prior to the 2000 census, the same process that the state advised be used for ballot initiatives in the years since.

Justice James Maxwell wrote a scathing dissent of Friday’s decision, accusing the majority of “stepping completely outside of Mississippi law” with a legal “interpretation that not only amends but judicially kills Mississippi’s citizen initiative process.”

Medical marijuana advocates blasted the decision while arguing that the court had both undermined democracy and endangered the health of Mississippi residents with debilitating conditions.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association Executive Director Ken Newburger said in a statement. “Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end. The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions.”

“Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right,” added Newburger. “It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter.”

Read the full article here.

5.17.21

Mississippi high court voids voter-ratified medical cannabis legalization measure

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday struck down a medical marijuana legalization initiative that voters had overwhelmingly approved last November, shattering a market that was potentially worth more than $250 million in its first year of operation.

The loss is believed to mark the first time an MMJ initiative has been overturned after residents approved it at the ballot box.

Mississippians passed the initiative at the polls in November by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

The decision derails what was expected to be a huge, business-friendly MMJ market in the Deep South.

The 2021 MJBizFactbook projected that a Mississippi medical cannabis industry would have generated $265 million in sales in the first full year and $800 million annually by the fourth year.

This is the second time in less than a month that a Southern state’s highest court has ruled against marijuana measures. In April, the Florida Supreme Court rejected an adult-use measure slated for the 2022 ballot.

And in South Dakota, the highest court is deciding whether to uphold voter-approved recreational legalization after hearing arguments last month.

In the Mississippi case, six justices ruled that the MMJ initiative was invalid because it didn’t meet the state’s initiative process requiring that 20% of the signatures come from each of five congressional districts.

The problem is that Mississippi went from five to four congressional districts after the 2000 Census, but numerous legislative efforts to update the citizen ballot initiative language faltered.

Three justices dissented, saying in effect that Mississippi’s secretary of state rightfully put the measure on the ballot.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a statement.

“The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right.

“It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter.”

Read the full article here.

5.17.21

Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Medical Marijuana Legalization Ballot That Voters Approved

 

A voter-approved initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi has been overturned by the state Supreme Court.

On Friday, the court ruled in favor of a Mississippi mayor who filed a legal challenge against the 2020 measure, nullifying its certification by the Secretary of State. The lawsuit was unrelated to the merits of the reform proposal itself, but plaintiffs argued that the constitutional amendment violated procedural rules for placing measures on the ballot.

While the court acknowledged that a “strong, if not overwhelming, majority of voters of Mississippi approved Initiative 65” to legalize medical cannabis in the state, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s (R) petition was valid for statutory reasons.

Madison’s challenge cites a state law stipulating that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.” But that policy went into effect when Mississippi had five congressional districts, and that’s since been reduced to four, making it mathematically impossible to adhere to.

The secretary of state and other officials pushed back against the lawsuit and argued that a plain reading of the state Constitution makes it clear that the intention of the district-based requirement was to ensure that signatures were collected in a geographically dispersed manner—and the result of the campaign met that standard.

But in the court’s 6-3 ruling released on Friday, the justices said that their hands were tied. The legislature or administration might be able to fix the procedural ballot issue, but it had to follow the letter of the law.

“We find ourselves presented with the question squarely before us and nowhere to turn but to its answer,” the decision states. “Remaining mindful of both the November 3, 2020 election results and the clear language in section 273 seeking to preserve the right of the people to enact changes to their Constitution, we nonetheless must hold that the text of section 273 fails to account for the possibility that has become reality in Mississippi.”

In sum, a Census-driven change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi “did, indeed, break section 273 so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions,” meaning there’s no legal way to pass a constitutional ballot initiative in the state.

“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

“We grant the petition, reverse the Secretary of State’s certification of Initiative 65, and hold that any subsequent proceedings on it are void,” the court ruled.

One justice who dissented said that the district-based requirement is arbitrary as it concerns Mississippi elections. While the federal government defines the state as having four congressional districts, the state Constitution “lays out the five districts,” and “there have been zero changes to the five districts” as far as the state’s laws are concerned.

In any case, this marks a major defeat for cannabis reform activists in the state who collected more than 214,000 signatures for their initiative. Sixty-eight percent of voters approved a general ballot question on whether to allow medical cannabis, and 74 percent signed off on advocates’ specific measure in a separate question.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a press release. “Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end. The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right.”

“It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter,” he said.

Read the full article here.

1.3.20

2020 Science of Marijuana Roundtable | Interview with David Brown | New Orleans City Business

https://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2020/01/03/2020-science-of-marijuana-roundtable/
12.3.19
DAVID BROWN To Join GAMBIT’s Hemp & Cannabis Forum As Panelist

The special educational event will discuss what’s next for medical cannabis and hemp.

https://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2020/01/03/2020-science-of-marijuana-roundtable/
06.06.19
SMPL Founder Dave Brown To Be A Speaker at Marijuana Business Con NEXT in New Orleans

On June 14-12, MJBizConNEXT is the place for cannabis business executives, lead cultivators and extractors and innovators in the industry seeking a forward-looking view into what’s NEXT in the cannabis industry. Learn about next-generation innovations and technology that are shaping the future of the cannabis industry on the immersive show floor. Gain actionable conference content from industry leaders to prepare for the unthinkable, the unplanned and the unimaginable in this rapidly growing industry.

http://www.mjbizconference.com/nexthttps://neworleanscitybusiness.com/blog/2020/01/03/2020-science-of-marijuana-roundtable/
11.30.18
Guest column: Louisiana must embrace criminal justice reform once again – David Brown

Louisiana officials have studied our costly criminal justice system and learned that if we pass legislation to improve rehabilitation and reduce incarceration, we can actually reduce crime. Now, our representatives in Washington, D.C. have the chance to follow the lead of state officials and pass meaningful criminal justice reform at the federal level.

Every day I spent as an assistant city prosecutor in Baton Rouge, I stared at a towering stack of cases, all minor offenses. My colleagues and I had to make quick decisions with little information like we were on an assembly line rather than deciding charges that would remain on someone’s permanent criminal record. This was a system designed to dispose of as many files per day as possible, not to ensure justice and public safety for our community.

Fortunately, our state legislators have recognized these problems and begun changing our laws. For 20 years, we had the highest incarceration rate in the country, a record no serious or compassionate person should be proud of. In June 2017, Louisiana passed a series of reforms expected to reduce the prison population by 10 percent over 10 years. We are expanding probation and prison alternatives for those who we don’t need to send to prison. We are also reducing wastefully long prison sentences since few 40-year-olds are the same people they were at age 20. I think we’re now on the same path as our neighbors in Georgia and Texas, who reduced their prison population by shortening sentences and investing in rehabilitation while watching their crime rates fall as a result.

The federal justice system has similar problems to what we’re fixing in Louisiana and these other states. In a purported attempt to deter crime, Congress passed long mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses in the 1980s. It turns out, however, that complicated federal statutes do not deter teenagers from making short-sighted or irrational decisions. Instead, the federal government is spending $50,000 per person to lock people up with no demonstrable benefit to taxpayers. Thanks to these sentences, someone caught selling a small amount of drugs can end up behind bars for life.

The federal government is now poised to enact major reform. The House and Senate are coming together in support of a bipartisan deal that would reduce the most ineffectively long drug sentences and incentivize prisoners to work hard on programs to rehabilitate themselves. The deal would make changes retroactive so that we do not waste more taxpayer money incarcerating people under ineffective and obsolete laws we’ve since changed.

President Donald Trump has just announced his support for the deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to bringing the deal to a vote before the end of this year.

Louisiana’s members of Congress should take a page out of state lawmakers’ books and embrace this bill. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy once worked inside a prison and has met with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to discuss criminal justice reform. The need for change should resonate with him personally. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has at times styled himself as a tough-on-crime legislator, but even he should find common ground with Trump on the fact that you can hold criminals accountable while being smart on crime.

From Baton Rouge to Washington, D.C., we need our lawmakers to take this common-sense step to improve the criminal justice system. Getting smart on crime isn’t getting soft on crime, and now is the time to turn the page on turnstile justice. Louisiana has shown sound and sensible leadership on this issue, and without hesitation, we should do so again.

11.01.18
Mexico Supreme Court Ruling Effectively Legalizes Marijuana Use, Possession, and Cultivation

In two separate rulings Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court effectively set a binding precedent that ends the country’s prohibition on marijuana use, possession, and cultivation.

The following is a statement from Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance:

“This is extraordinary because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs. With marijuana already legal in Canada, now both of the US’s neighbors will have legal marijuana, making the US federal government’s prohibition of marijuana even more untenable.”

 

Read More
10.24.18
MSU RECEIVES $2.4M NIH GRANT TO ADVANCE CANNABIS RESEARCH

Norbert Kaminski, a toxicologist who has studied the effects of Cannabis since 1990, has received a five-year, $2.4 million NIH grant to further his research on the role of Cannabis in decreasing brain inflammation in HIV patients.  Kaminski and his team will take blood samples from several hundred HIV patients who will report whether or not they use medical marijuana. From there, they will assess various aspects of the patients’ immune system as it may relate to indicators of systemic inflammation. His work also could shed light on inflammation that occurs in other brain-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, with hopes of the research leading to additional therapeutic options.  It’s a very interesting research proposal and we’re eager to learn more about it and eventually see the results.

Nevertheless, we have concerns about any federally-funded research in this era simply because of the plant material used in conducting any of these studies.  NIH-funded research necessarily uses Cannabis from the Mississippi plot which is of notoriously low quality.  It does not remotely resemble any available from state-legal Cannabis dispensaries and it doesn’t resemble the black market supply either.  It is much lower in THC, it is regularly moldy and it arrives at any approved researchers only in a pulverized form which appears to be the result of placing whole plant (stems and all) into a food processor.  Some scientists have publicly criticized the NIH and DEA for this situation as it unnecessarily compromises the utility of their results and may even put test subjects at risk due to contamination.  Nevertheless, we applaud this research and wish Dr. Kaminski all success in this vital research.

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